Substances in tattoo inks might lead to serious health concerns



The substances in tattoo inks might cause effects such as allergic reactions, or result in more serious health concerns, which can even occur years after you have had a tattoo.

Tattoos symbolise originality, personality and freedom. They are also more popular than ever. In Europe, around 12 % of adults have a tattoo. In some countries and younger age groups, this proportion is even higher. But, little attention has been paid to the chemicals in your tattoos and whether the inks used could harm your health. ECHA Newsletter reports on the current regulatory developments.

When you get a tattoo, needles make multiple puncture wounds and insert colour pigments into your skin or even into other parts of your body, like your eyeballs or under your tongue.

The substances in the ink might cause effects such as allergic reactions, or result in more serious health concerns. These effects can even occur years after you have had the tattoo, suggesting that exposure to the substances is lifelong.

Tattoo inks, as well as permanent make-up such as eyeliner inks, are mixes of several chemicals, such as colourants and auxiliary ingredients like fillers, binding agents or pre-servatives.

These chemicals may be known to cause or suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutations, toxic effects on reproduction, allergies or other adverse effects in animals or humans. For example, colourants can contain heavy metals and allergenic substances, but often little data is available on whether they can cause mutations or cancer, if they are harmful to fertility or if they affect children’s development.


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